Underneath the obviously appealing aesthetics of this centuries old city are some historical accounts and quirky facts that helped to shape our nation. Read on to learn some of Savannah’s Secrets.
1. The Pirates’ House, a famous Savannah restaurant, was actually a tavern frequented by pirates who sailed the Caribbean in 1794. Events at the Pirates’ House were the inspiration for Robert Lewis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island.
2. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the John Berendt’s novel about secrets, socialites and murder, spent more than five years on the New York Times Bestseller list holding the record for one of the longest running bestseller in history.
3. In 2002, the American Institute of Parapsychology named Savannah America’s Most Haunted City. Based on Savannah’s history of fires, plagues, wars and voodoo, they determined Savannah was the perfect place for supernatural activity.
4. While admiring Savannah’s splendid architecture, you might start to notice a reoccurring color painted on the doorframes, porches and windowsills of many of Savannah’s grand homes. This bluish green color, or “Haint Blue,” is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it has an important purpose, to ward off evil spirits. “Haint Blue” paint was first used by African Slaves to secure entry point into their houses from spirits. The Geechee/Gulla culture of the Lowcountry say the bluish green color of “Haint Blue” represents water, of which it is believed, spirits can not pass over.
5. Five months after General Oglethorpe and the original settlers landed in Savannah, 42 Jewish refugees from Spain arrived in July 1733. This was the largest immigration of Jews at one time to the new world during the colonial period.
6. Florence Martus, a Savannahian, whose understanding and application of the words “Southern Hospitality” brought her fame as the Waving Girl. Born August 7, 1868, Martus lived with her brother, lighthouse keeper George Martus, between 1887 and 1931 near the entrance of the Savannah Harbor. During this time, she would wave a welcome to each incoming ship and wave a goodbye to every outgoing vessel. During her years at the lighthouse, she greeted more than 50,000 vessels. Located on Savannah’s Historic River Street, this is the first memorial to a Georgia woman in any city park.
7. Tomochichi, Chief of the Yamacraw Indians, was rumored to stand over seven feet tall, have only one good eye and wear a cape of bear skin. Tomochichi is buried in Wright Square; a large boulder marks his resting place.
8. While the Spanish moss that hangs from Savannah’s majestic oaks is a true reminder that you are in the romantic Deep South, Spanish moss does not make a great souvenir. Often undetectable by the naked eye, small biting bugs called Chiggers make Spanish moss its home. During the early days of the Colony, residents often stuffed and bound their mattresses with the soft and bountiful Spanish moss only to wake up irritated and itchy after the tiny bugs invaded their slumber. As a result, a common phrase emerged in Savannah, and it was – “Goodnight neighbor, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”
9. Besides English, the other languages spoken in the early days of the colony were Native American languages, Spanish, Portuguese, Yiddish, French, Gaelic and German.
10. Savannah over the years has become the fictional home of some of the silver screen’s most memorable movies including “Forrest Gump,” “Roots,” “Gator,” “Glory,” “Something to Talk About,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” “Forces of Nature,” “The General’s Daughter,” and the Robert Redford golf epic, “Legend of Bagger Vance.” Hollywood loves Savannah because our beautiful Historic District and Lowcountry landscape make us an instant movie set. While in Savannah, take a movie tour and see the sights featured in some of pop culture’s favorite films.
11. In a study published by the Savannah Historic Foundation, one of the most admired preservation groups in the country, more than 40 percent of 2,500 buildings inventoried in Savannah had architectural or historical significance.
12. While wandering around Savannah, if you happen to take a stroll down St. Julian Street, you will notice you are walking on oyster shells. You have discovered Tabby. Tabby is a type of cement or plaster used for mortar, walls and walkways. Because limestone was not available along the coast, the colonist burned oyster shells and mixed the ash with sand and water to make cement.
13. The first movie shown at the Lucas Theater when it opened in 1921 was “Camille.” It starred silent film actor Rudolph Valentino.
14. When the Colony of Georgia was founded in 1733, Catholics, lawyers and hard liquor were banned. But considering that Savannah is home to the largest celebration in the South honoring St. Patrick (an Irish Catholic Saint) and is famous for the “Downtown To-Go Cup” (thanks to the city’s liberal view on cocktails to go) Savannah has since dropped all bans.
15. Girl Scouting of the USA was founded in Savannah in 1912 by a Savannah woman named Juliette Gordon Low. Her childhood home, also called “the Birthplace” by Girl Scouts, was Savannah’s first National Historic Landmark.